The fact that USC won in Ed Orgeron’s debut as interim coach induced no surprise in me:
* They were playing in the friendly confines of the Coliseum against an average opponent,
* Orgeron has long been known as a coach with a fiery, upbeat, and animated personality who players love and will run through a concrete wall for, and…
* After Arizona State tied the record for most points scored against ‘SC in a game – which triggered Lane Kiffin’s dismissal – it was guaranteed that the Trojans would come out hard against the Arizona Wildcats on Thursday night.
In fact, when Orgeron was named coach, I had a feeling that those Wildcats from Tucson were in trouble.
The first few minutes of the game did nothing to change that as quarterback Cody Kessler stretched the field in throwing long touchdown passes on USC’s second and third possessions, 62 yards to Nelson Agholor and 63 yards to Tre Madden.
The Wildcats need to be given much credit for making the game close in the fourth quarter after the Trojans took a 31-10 lead, everybody thinking that it would end up a blowout.
B.J. Denker’s throwing style won’t remind anyone of Peyton Manning, but the Arizona quarterback’s 363 yards in the air and four touchdowns – three in the second half and two in the game’s last 15 minutes – were career highs, and his scoring throw to Garic Wharton with 4:16 left brought the ‘Cats to within a touchdown.
Not to mention giving the Trojan faithful a bit of a scare.
Running Back Ka’Deem Carey, last year’s NCAA leader in rushing, was the man for U of A with his 138 yards and multiple first downs.
After the Wildcats’s last score, Silas Redd and the USC offensive line took over as four strong runs and three first downs – the last one on a third and eight play – sealed the game, making Orgeron’s debut a happy one as the Trojans began the post-Kiffin era with a 38-31 win.
Roughly 60 to 65,000 fans saw an enthusiastic ‘SC team score 28 points in the first half, the most since they scored 33 against Colorado last year. Orgeron vowed to open up the offense, and several Trojans benefitted.
Kessler threw for a career-high 297 yards to go with his two scores, and Agholor filled in very nicely for an injured Marqise Lee with his 161 yards on seven catches, plus that first quarter TD.
Just as heroic – maybe even more so – for USC (4-2, 1-2 in the Pac-12) were the five running backs that they used; Redd, Madden, Justin Davis, Ty Issac and Javorius Allen combined for 219 yards and three touchdowns as the offensive line dominated Arizona on the line of scrimmage all night.
In addition to stretching the field, Orgeron delivered a return to the manic energy and family atmosphere that was so prevalent under Pete Carroll, doing things like bringing back desserts to training table, giving the media access to practices and information on injuries – things that Kiffin had banned.
However, a more symbolic thing occurred before the game when Orgeron gathered everyone associated with the team – student assistants and trainers, equipment managers, and the front office people as well as players and coaches – in the middle of the Coliseum field in a tight circle and gave them a rousing pep talk, which surely fired them up.
Having former all-American wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson lead the Trojans out of the tunnel didn’t hurt, either, though I’m puzzled as to why he wore former ‘SC defensive legend Ronnie Lott’s San Francisco 49ers #42 jersey instead of his own #3 that he wore at USC.
Those who criticized Orgeron’s hiring looked at his 10-25 record while at Mississippi and said that he wasn’t head coaching material due to that, but there’s one huge difference between that situation and this:
Orgeron didn’t have the talent to compete at Ole Miss. He has the talent at USC.
Which will definitely help him in his bid to remove the “Interim” from his job title.
However, the most prevalent thing I noticed, particularly in the second half, is that you can definitely move the ball on the Trojans.
With over 500 yards of offense, Arizona (3-2, 0-2 in the Pac-12) certainly showed that and – with all due respect – the Wildcats are not in the upper echelon of the conference right now, though they will get better down the road.
In other words, the jury is still out as to where these Trojans from just south of downtown Los Angeles will end up when the season’s done, for this simple reason:
USC has some tough opponents coming up, teams that are quite capable of beating them, starting with this one…
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (4-2)
SITE: Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, IN
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 19, 4:30 p.m.
TV: KNBC Channel 4
LAST MEETING: Notre Dame won, 22-13
ALL-TIME SERIES: Notre Dame leads, 44-35-5
Wake up the echoes!
Although Alabama, Auburn, Michigan, Ohio State, Army and Navy will vehemently dispute it, this has been known as perhaps the best rivalry in college football for nearly 90 years.
Having many legends call this school home ranging from Knute Rockne to the Four Horsemen to Joe Montana to Rudy, Notre Dame is coming off a 37–34 win over Arizona State and, as they have a bye this week, will have plenty of time to prepare before USC comes to South Bend.
Coached by Brian Kelly and led by senior quarterback Tommy Rees, the Irish are at a sort of crossroads in that much like the Trojans, the jury remains out on them as to how their season will ultimately go after their 12-0 season and appearance in the BCS Championship Game in 2012.
The Jeweled Shillelagh will be at stake once again in this 85th renewal of this rivalry; a brief history of this intersectional showdown will appear on this site next week.